Summary: How to pray for you pastor to have the right words to say, and the boldness to say it.
How Disheartened, Discouraged, Confused, Pastor Tom retreated to his aging min-van. The emergency meeting of the Administrative board had gone worse than he expected. “Something has to change,” blurted out Sister Mary, self appointed spokes person for the choir, “We have heard enough about all this sin stuff.” “Our last pastor told how much God loved us, he never made us feel guilty,” chimed in Deacon Smith. “We know, it is in the Bible and all, but maybe you can focus on some of the other things Jesus said, like how he loved little children,” The Board chair, Tim Richards said. “Our last pastor told us everyone is going to heaven, some are just taking a different road, he never said anyone would go to hell.” “ And last Sunday you said that people who don’t know Jesus Christ will go to hell. I was uncomfortable with that,” said sister Mary.
The Brother Madison, Titus Madison, a long time member of Community church, and now the treasurer spoke up, “Tom, can I call you that, Tom, we are not telling you how to preach, not really, it is just maybe you could fixate from now on on the good thing in the Bible, the love, the joy, the hope, and forget about all the bad. That message of yours on the cross, I have to tell you was hard to listen to. In point of fact, it turned my stomach. As the treasure, I can tell, you people give more when the message makes them feel good about themselves, no one wants to feel guilty or think they need to change. You understand, right.”
And so the meeting went for the next hour and a half, Pastor Tom attempting to defend his position, as biblical, as necessary, as teaching the whole truth only to be rebuffed. The unspoken question that hung in the air, like an early morning fog, would they ask for a new pastor?
He drove home in a daze. He knew his wife, Brenda, would be waiting like an expectant puppy, at the door to learn what had happened. He would be coming in with his tail between his legs. He realized, as he sat, thinking about the nine months he had been pastor of Community church, pondering his future there, his decision would affect more than himself, it would have ramifications for his whole family. Just last Saturday, he and Brenda had unpacked the last of their boxes, the china. How could he tell her they would be moving soon? They would need to put the china plates back into their protective sleeves and the tea cups would return to the cardboard dividers. What about his son Matt, he has just starting build a network of friends? What should he do? What they were asking: Would it be so wrong, Jesus did say a lot about love. Could he, should he, would he, change the message to make the people happy, and assure his staying.
Although Pastor Tom is a fictional character, his dilemma is not. After being in pastoral ministry since 1984, I had heard Tom’s story fall from the lips of several of my friends. Sometimes the pressure is a blatant as in Tom’s case, other times it is more hidden, but it is still there.
What should Pastor Tom do?
That is the question that faced Paul. If he would just change his message, everything would be alright. What did he do?
Remember he is under arrest. He is being punished for preaching the gospel, bond 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to a Roman soldier, restricted in his movements, and limited is every
Look with me at Ephesians 6:19, Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,
Instead of release, he asked for prayers for the right words. He wanted to have the right words to say to convince those he could about Jesus. Instead of fearfully changing the message, Paul asked to prayer so he could fearlessly deliver the message. Listen to the prayer he put in the lips of the Ephesians, “Whenever I speak, to my closest friends, or the Roman warrior shackled to me, word may be given me so that I will (what) (that is right) fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.
Paul asked for the right words. Mark Twain, the early American Writer and Humorist, said, “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
Paul’s prayer was not to stop the words from flowing, it was not to change the message to be more palatable, it was not for words that would bring comfort to his life, it was for words to persuade, to convince, to convert. Paul said pray, pray hard, pray as if life depended on it, that I might have the right words.